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A Journey From Trainee to Partner

By Lisa Williams, Partner

It was the summer of 2006 and I had just graduated from university with a Masters degree in Physics. I was contacted by a recruitment company asking if I had thought of a career as a patent attorney. I hadn’t! I had never actually heard of the profession. After researching the career, I realised that it sounded perfect for me. So, when the recruitment company contacted me again to ask if I would like to be interviewed by the prestigious firm Haseltine Lake (as it was called then), I jumped at the chance. I attended the interview and received a call later the same day to tell me that I had secured the role of a Trainee Patent Attorney. I started working at Haseltine Lake less than a month later and the rest is history! 14 years on and I am still with the firm having progressed through the roles from Trainee Patent Attorney to Partner.

I can still remember the day I started at the Bristol office of HLK (as it is now known) in September 2006. I was handed some paper files of actual cases to read through from start to finish and an extremely old book that had been passed down through the generations on how to be a patent attorney (though on reading it I had the impression that, to be a patent attorney, you had to be a man with a briefcase and a bowler hat, which I was certainly not!). It wasn’t long before I was writing responses to office actions and drafting patent applications, becoming familiar with all kinds of interesting technology from healthcare to telecommunications and beyond. Then came the professional exams, which started just over a year into my career. The exams are tough and so the next few years passed by in a blur with revision on top of work. In amongst this, I was also offered the exciting opportunity of a secondment to a leading audio electronics company in Edinburgh, which I gladly accepted. I gained valuable in-house experience during the weeks I spent working at this company and I still have fond memories of my time living in Edinburgh.

In 2012, I qualified as a UK and European Patent Attorney. It was a strange but wonderful feeling to never have to sit an exam again! Now I felt that I could truly focus on my career and aspirations. Then came another exciting opportunity to move to the Netherlands and support our Hague Office. Once again, I seized this opportunity and off I went to the Hague at the start of 2014. It was not long after my move that I was promoted to Senior Associate in recognition of the work I was doing to support and grow our Hague office. Alongside the management of the office and the day-to-day case work, I spent a lot of time in the Netherlands attending events to make new contacts and visiting our existing clients to better understand their needs and requirements. One of those clients grew to become one of our largest. I also spent time supporting local business incubators including a European Space Agency business incubator. So, alongside growing one of our largest multinational clients, I also worked with high-tech start-ups to develop their IP strategies and business planning.

My move to the Hague was initially set for a period of one year but I ended up staying for over three wonderful years! In 2017, I decided it was time to relocate back to Bristol in the UK and it was that same year that I was promoted to Partner. So, I left the UK as a Patent Attorney and I returned to the UK as a Partner. Since my return to the UK, I have continued to work closely with the clients and contacts that I built up during my time in the Netherlands and I often go back to visit them. I also have clients in the US that I have worked with since the start of my career and have had the opportunity to make trips to see them in recent years, which leads us to the present day.

I still remember the day in 2006 when I started out as a Trainee Patent Attorney like it was yesterday, and it has taken a lot of hard work to progress through the ranks. But, here I am in 2021 as a Partner of the firm, working alongside colleagues who were already Partners at the time I started as a trainee and who I have looked up to throughout my career. The highly respected Partner that provided a great deal of my training has retired and I now have my own trainee who is just starting out on their own journey. I wonder where theirs will take them…